As I search around the interweb for something interesting to read about the Denver Broncos, or simply anything sports related in general, I found myself coming back to what I love most: The NFL Draft. If you have yet to check it out, you might be quite surprised to learn about the amount of 2011 Mock Drafts that have already been released, and how many of them have generally the same idea of a player for the Broncos (Ohio State DL Cameron Heyward), but that's a different story all together.
What I noticed most about a good percentage of these mock drafts was that the authors generally had the Broncos in the bottom ten of the NFL in terms of selection position, and an oddly similar number of mock drafts had the Broncos picking in the exact same position: eighth overall.
I realize that a lot of mock drafts are based off of someone's power rankings, so I won't dog the order of the mock drafts too much, but do people really think the Broncos are one of the eight worst teams in the NFL? Is the departure of Brandon Marshall going to hurt the team so bad that they are actually worse than they were in 2009?
One of the biggest problems I had last year was with uninformed people (no offense, if you were one) who felt the Broncos were primed for the top pick in the 2010 NFL Draft after trading quarterback Jay Cutler and firing Mike Shanahan. Sure, to the casual knee-jerker those two moves alone would seem like enough to have placed the Broncos in the bottom of the league, but those select groups of people failed to account for all of the other significant improvements the Broncos made throughout the course of the offseason.
For instance, the additions the Broncos made to their secondary in Pro Bowler Brian Dawkins and team interception leader Andre' Goodman helped the Broncos to one of the top three pass defenses in the NFL.
I will grant one thing--the Broncos were obviously no better in 2009 than they were in 2008, simply because their record of 8-8 was the same for both years. But compare the Broncos to most of the other rebuilding/re-loading teams in the NFL. With the exception of the New York Jets who got on a serious hot streak at the end of the season, the Broncos didn't do too poorly for themselves.
In fact, many media outlets were talking about the Broncos as the biggest story of the season when they started 6-0 and Kyle Orton was an early candidate for MVP, Josh McDaniels the early favorite for coach of the year, and Elvis Dumervil the early leader for defensive MVP.
We all know of the 2-8 finish, and how the Broncos completely wore down as the season wore on. The depth of the team was in serious question, and the bend-not-break recipe for success of the defense was simply not enough after the bye week.
So what did the Broncos do to kick off the 2010 offseason?
Not only did they get rid of a couple of players who obviously didn't want to wear orange and blue on Sundays, they brought on another big group of players who fit exactly what Josh McDaniels and the rest of the Broncos front office are looking for--smart, talented, versatile football players.
The Broncos have created--whether some fans like it or not--a team oriented culture around their locker room. Win or lose, these guys in the Denver locker room have been put together to be as Mike Lombardi paraphrased, "competitive and tough in tough times."
Denver's beloved Broncos came into the 2009 season with more question marks than that annoying guy on t.v. who used to tell people what to do with their money...or something. Despite it all, the team started 6-0 and finished four games better than what a lot of "experts" projected them to.
Now the heat is on again. The Broncos have traded two of their top offensive playmakers in Tony Scheffler and Brandon Marshall, and now they are surrounded with more question marks--if you haven't been paying attention.
ESPN's Matt Williamson, filling in for Bill (no relation), indicated that the Broncos' biggest weakness was the quarterback position. Not that Williamson's opinion is the only one that matters, and not that he is right, but if the Broncos' quarterback situation is the team's biggest problem, Denver is poised to have a huge season.
Sure, Kyle Orton is not the flashiest quarterback, but like Michael Lombardi pointed out in his article, "Will the Real Kyle Orton Please Stand Up?" the new signal callers in Denver will push the competitiveness out of Orton, something Broncos and Bears fans feel they have yet to see. Whether or not that is true is up to Kyle Orton, but it's true that, at times, his conservative play can become detrimental.
Even if the Broncos' quarterback position is it's biggest "weakness", the present and future have become progressively brighter over the last three months.
Really, the biggest concern right now for the Broncos lies with two big dudes named Ryan, and if those guys are healthy by the start of the season, the NFL better take quick watch. The Broncos have upgraded the talent and competition at nearly every position this offseason, and Josh McDaniels stated recently that regardless of position, the best player will play.
To me, that statement indicates that McDaniels believes he not only has a very talented group of players, but they are all mentally tough.
McDaniels' re-loading project is almost fully complete, and 2010 will really be the first year Broncos fans have a chance to really see the effects of the new front office's mark on this beloved franchise.
Michael Lombardi set the par for Denver's 2010 course at ten victories, and I happen to agree with him. When you look over this roster top to bottom, it appears as though it is a legitimate playoff contender. At least, they appear to be as good if not better than the 2009 New York Jets, who made it to the AFC Championship game.
The Broncos' combination of veteran leadership, youth, and versatility have to be very encouraging to fans. This is a team that appears poised to provide strong competition for the present with the potential to overtake the AFC West title for years to come.